Which gouges for linocutting
In order to engrave linoleum, we use engraving tools called gouges, which are extremely sharp tools.
These gouges, which can also be used for wood engraving, are mostly concave and can have different shapes.
We can find U-shaped, V-shaped or flat ones. In addition to that, the radius of curvature will be different from one to the other. We will therefore find very wide “u” gouges, others much thinner and the same goes for “v” gouges.
Each gouge will be used for a specific purpose in linocut. Some will be used to outline the contours, others very fine will engrave the finest details and finally the largest gouges will hollow out the large parts to be dug. When you have large areas to hollow out, it will create irregularities on the linoleum with some areas very hollow and others less so. This is where the flat gouge comes in. It will be used to make the surfaces flat so that the ink does not settle on them.
How to choose your linocut tools for carving lino ?
Before answering this question and talking about branding, it will be crucial to know what types of printing you want to do. If you only plan to make fine creations, it will not be useful to equip yourself with gouges that are too wide or flat. On the other hand, if your goal is to make only creations without too much detail then the finest gouges will not be very useful.
If you are in either case, avoid gouge packs. It is best to carefully select each carving tool to add to your linocut gouge line.
If you don’t know exactly what you want to achieve but you want to have a panel of carving tools allowing you a wide range of creation, I advise you this very good Japanese kit Mikisyo Power Grip as well as a fine gouge from Pfeil of the type L 11/0.5 with which I work a lot, which will complete the possibilities of cutting. With this, you can engrave absolutely everything without any problem and without breaking the bank. If you want to work even more finely, I recommend the Komasuki 0.5 U-shaped gouge. Although 0.5mm like the pfeil, it is much finer than the latter.
Once you’ve used these gouges for a while, you’ll be able to put them to use with more experience and know whether you want to use “u” or “v” gouges for example.
Personally I like both kinds of engraving gouge. I sometimes even use the flat bevelled gouge similar to a scalpel which is very useful to be very precise.
For those who have the budget and want a finer tool kit for maximum precision then the Flexcut Micro Gouges will be ideal. On the other hand, these gouges being very thin, sharpening them will be all the more complicated. I invite you to read my tips for sharpening linocut gouges .
Which gouges to start linocut printmaking?
When you are new to linocutting, you may think that starting to engrave with a small kit of interchangeable gouges is a good idea. In fact I do not recommend this at all and for several reasons.
These kits are very good if you have a workshop or to initiate other people during a discovery day for example. But they are very limiting, not very precise and much less cutting than the gouges of higher range. This will make it harder for you to make your creations and you may cut yourself as well.
The sharper the gouge, the less likely it is to cut because there is no need to force the gouge into the linoleum sheet.
It is also important to know that these interchangeable gouges will eventually get damaged and that you will have to buy new ones. In the end, we will spend as much if not more money than if we had opted directly for better quality and more ergonomic gouges.
A final point that joins the others. As I said above, quality gouges carve effortlessly, which will make the work infinitely more enjoyable. It’s a bit like writing with a pen that glides beautifully or with one that has a dry point.
Maintaining your linocut carving tools
Working with good tools is a comfort, so make sure your gouges stay perfectly maintained.
It will thus be necessary really learn to sharpen linocut gouges to keep them as sharp as possible. When I make a linocut, I sharpen my gouges very regularly while I engrave.
They should also be stored flat and dry to avoid contact with the tip. You can also prick them in cork to protect them from oxidation and transport or handle them without risk of pricking or damaging them.
Do not hesitate to ask me your questions if you did not find answers to your questions.
And happy linocut printmaking to all!